Now that we are well into spring, I wanted to take a look at some of the things I have been going crazy over lately. I even threw in a “Wish List” item for good measure. A few of them may seem like a little bit of a cop out, but we like what we like, and I like to keep it real.

Avocados – What’s not to like honestly? “Persea Americana” is a gastronomic gem native to Mexico and Central America, although it can be propagated in most mild climes. And while it falls into the flowering plant family, this delectable fruit of the avocado tree is actually a berry with a single seed. While they are available virtually everywhere all year around, the best ones in my area are just coming into season. From about now until around Independence Day it will be all homemade guacamole and toppings for salads and sandwiches. I have even heard it makes a great ice cream and adds an extra richness to chocolate cake – for all you adventurous eaters out there (me included)! There are over 23 varieties of avocado, the most common being the Haas, but they are all dietary powerhouses. Rich in vitamins, K, B, C and E, it will also give you plenty of potassium, and regular consumption has been proven to lower cholesterol levels. And there is nothing quite like devouring something you love and knowing that it’s good for you, too. However it should be noted that all parts of the avocado tree and fruit are highly toxic to all animals, including dogs, cats, birds and livestock.

Ramps – It’s not an onion. It’s not garlic. It’s not a leek. It’s all of those! Spring ramps, also called spring onions, wild leeks or wood leeks, are beautiful springtime plants found largely in the eastern part of North America. Due to their overwhelming popularity in the past few seasons, there has been an over-foraging issue, however if one knows where to look, they can still be found, if you’re a go-out-and-get-it-yourself kind of person. I love them for their flavor; a gorgeous pungent blend of onions, garlic and leeks that is utterly delightful. I also happen to be a lover of all things that are onion-related, so I suppose it follows. If you do go a-hunting for these lovelies yourself, please be careful not to confuse the leaves with those of the lily-of-the-valley, which are highly toxic and nowhere near as tasty. They do need to be refrigerated as soon as possible, and used just as quickly, as their freshness is limited, and that is the form in which they are best used. You can put them into recipes in place of chives, shallots, leeks, and of course onions. If you haven’t sampled ramps yet, don’t hesitate to give them a try!

Strawberries – It all started when I put together a cheesecake recently with these yummy berries on them, dipped in chocolate. I think perhaps because they are so readily accessible to everyone, strawberries sort of get taken for granted. Make no mistake though, these babies are nutritional superstars. They will increase levels of good cholesterol, are loaded with the crucial antioxidant polyphenol, lower your blood pressure, and are rich in manganese and potassium, so eat up! This berry – which is actually a member of the rose family – was first cultivated by the ancient Romans, and I have to commend them on their sense of taste. All throughout the spring and summer, I plan on throwing them into salads, yogurt, smoothies, and of course, desserts! And I know there is a sizeable pocket of strawberry ice cream fanatics out there too, though I am not of their number. Try to take advantage of the red fruity freshness all season!

Angry Orchard Original Cider – I love cider. I love it all year around, and I am fairly discriminating when it comes to the brands I enjoy. Angry Orchard is probably the one I drink most often, as it is the easiest to find of the ciders I drink. It is in most every major supermarket and liquor store as well. In my area, a six pack of the Original cider is around $9.99; maybe a little high for some of us, but sometimes it’s just nice to “treat yo self.” Sam Adams Brewery is its parent company, and they distribute several variations aside from the Original. I have tried all of the flavors except for the Cinnamon, and still enjoy the standard flavor the most. It is light, not too sweet and has a good genuine apple flavor. They also offer a line of Cider House products, three ciders whose brewing process is inspired by various processes for creating other alcoholic beverages. My favorite is The Muse, a cider that closely resembles sparkling wines and demi-sec champagnes. And let us not forget that their marketing and packaging is also extremely appealing.
Jamie Oliver – I have been a Jamie Oliver fan for a long time. Back in the old days, when Food Network actually aired cooking shows, I watched his religiously. He’s just a plain old good guy. Born in Clavering England in 1975, he has spent most of his career as a chef trying to make real, tasty food more accessible to the masses. The issue for which I admire him the most however is his dedication to improving the food children are served in schools. As a child of the public school system in America, I can attest to eating a lot more vending machine food than what was healthy in my time, mostly because the options offered in the school cafeteria were less than appealing. I even skipped meals entirely when I had no other option. Not how we want our children growing up. Oliver lobbied Parliament to change the quality of food served in British schools, and you know what? It worked. Crazy I know. He also started the Jamie Oliver Food Foundation, an organization dedicated, “to create a strong sustainable movement to educate every child about food, inspire families to cook again and empower people everywhere to fight obesity”(www.jamieoliver.com) Aside from this admirable cause, he also manages to run several restaurants, be a husband and father to four little cutie pies, and write a slew of cookbooks, among them “Friday Night Feast” And “Jamie’s Great Britain.” Please give this guy your attention if you have not already. He’s one of the few who actually uses his celebrity for something good.

Philips Viva Digital Airfryer – Yeah I know, I always manage to throw you guys a curve ball in these things, don’t I? So like I said at the beginning, this is more of a “Kitchen Bucket List” item than a favorite…or maybe it’s both. The basic idea behind the product is that you can make tasty fried treats in the comfort of your own home with about a tablespoon of oil. Yeah, really. So you can have hot crispy French fries that are actually not that bad for you. I said “fries” and “not that bad” in the same sentence. If any of you out there have this little prize already and are loving it (or not), leave me a comment and give me the lowdown on this thing. It retails for about $400 – because if you want to be healthy, you have to pay for it – but I managed to locate it on Amazon for about half that. Ok, $200 for better health and still having food that I like…that’s manageable.

So that’s going to do it for me gang. I hope this was at least somewhat interesting for you, and maybe I brought some things to your attention that you didn’t know about before, which has always been my goal with this blog. Thanks for all your continued support!
Special thanks to www.webmd.com, www.williams-sonoma.com, www.wildedible.com, and of course www.wikipedia.com for all their insight!

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